ESPN Fantasy Basketball 101: How to playon November 17, 2020 at 7:53 pm

You love basketball. You follow the NBA, root for your favorite team and watch a ton of games on TV.

And you still haven’t played fantasy basketball?!

If that sounds a lot like you, this is the perfect season to give it a try. The NBA is loaded with exciting talent, from youngsters like Luka Doncic and Trae Young, to reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and veteran superstars LeBron James and Kevin Durant. There has never been a better time to jump right into the fantasy game.

Imagine having Stephen Curry on your team when he gets on a roll from 3-point land and carries you to victory. Or what it feels like to have Anthony Davis on your squad when he stuffs the stat sheet with 30 points, 20 rebounds and five blocks.

These are the moments you remember as a fantasy manager!

In fact, many of those who’ve played fantasy basketball over the years can recall specific games that certain players had for them. An epic scoring night by James Harden or Damian Lillard, perhaps, or maybe a timely triple-double by Russell Westbrook.

So fun. So, so fun!

If you’re not an expert, don’t worry — we have everything you need to know about how to enter a league and draft a winning team. Even if you’re a total beginner, you will still have the tools to experience the joy of fantasy basketball like millions do every year.

Make the league your own

Every fantasy basketball league is different. While there are basic rules and settings that apply across the board (you will learn about those below), each league takes on its own identity based on settings like roster size, injury spots, stat categories and other specifics.

We encourage you to join or start a league that fits what you’re looking for. If you want to be more casual and set your lineups once a week, find a league that uses weekly lineup changes. If you’re a little bit more diehard with all this and want to be able to add and drop players and craft new lineups on a daily basis, that’s the type of league you should enter.

The bottom line is to do what’s fun for you. Find a league that keeps you tuning in to watch your players every night.

With that in mind, we’ve put together ESPN Fantasy Basketball 101 to give you an overview of how to get started, how to prepare for your draft and how to play during the season.

Now it’s time for you to sign up and join the fun!

Getting started

ESPN Fantasy Basketball FAQ

Click here for a quick reference for basic game-related questions.

How to sign up on the ESPN Fantasy app

Were you invited to an ESPN Fantasy Basketball league? Do you want to create your own as a League Manager? We have complete instructions for you right here.

How to sign up online

Whether you were invited to join an already-existing league or want to create your own as a League Manager, you’ll find everything you need to do so right here.

League settings

If you created your own league, you’ll need to make sure all of your league’s rules and settings — including roster size, scoring, regular-season schedules and playoff schedules — are to your liking. We have all of the details of how to do that right here. Note: This season

You’ve signed up, now what?

Check out your league and team pages

It’s time to learn more about your league and team pages, so you know where everything is. We’ve got you covered with a detailed tour right here.

Know your rules

This might seem incredibly basic, but even veteran fantasy basketball players often assume they know their league rules even when they don’t. The result of overlooking a rule can be costly, so be sure you know the rules before your draft.

Go to your fantasy basketball league page, click on League, then Settings. Here, you’ll be able to find all the rules that are in place for your league this season. This includes roster construction, scoring, schedule, playoff structure and more.

Take the time to carefully go over every section. To make sure you understand the thinking behind each rule, check out our League Settings overview.

Draft prep

A good draft will put you in position to have a successful season, and taking time to prepare beforehand is key. That includes formulating strategies and printing out rankings that reflect your league’s scoring format.

Don’t worry, we have you covered with customized expert rankings and draft strategies in the ESPN Fantasy Basketball draft kit.

Autodraft prep

If you don’t plan to take part in a live draft, that’s OK. Our system will automatically draft for you.

Still, you have the option of guiding how our system will draft your team. Go to your Team page and click “Edit Autopick Strategy.” Here, you can decide which player positions you’d like to pick in which parts of the draft and how many players at each position you want to select overall.

Mock drafts

Mock drafts are simply practice drafts that don’t count for anything. It’s a terrific way to get used to the ESPN draft software, make sure you know how everything works and test out different strategies. For example, that might mean drafting a point guard in the first round versus drafting a small forward in Round 1 and waiting on a point guard until the fourth round.

These practice drafts also let you see which players are going higher than expected and which are routinely slipping down a round or two (or more). This is extremely useful knowledge that you can take with you in your real draft and use to your advantage, avoiding those “sliding” players until later rounds when you have a good idea that they will still be available.

For an overview of how everything in the ESPN draft room works, click on this link.

The draft

Draft day is the most exciting day of the season, because it’s when your team goes from a plan to a reality. It’s when you finally get the chance to assemble the group of players you get to root for all season. Of course, you can always add and drop players throughout the year, but the draft is still the most fundamental part of your roster and you want to make sure you don’t miss on your top players.

If you have prepared for your draft by reading up on players and strategies, and by participating in several mock drafts, you’re on the path to success. Believe in your hunches and don’t look back.

To make everything go as smoothly as possible, be sure to follow these handy rules.

The season is starting, let the fun begin!


In most leagues, there are at least a few managers who enjoy the art of the deal. If you’re one of those people, trading is going to be one of the most fun aspects of fantasy basketball. When done well, it’s a great opportunity to improve your roster while unloading someone you perhaps no longer want or need.

There are several important factors to keep in mind. You must look at the roster of the team you’re trading with and understand which, if any players, that manager might be willing to part with. For example, it’d be unwise to make a trade offer for a point guard on a team that is battling injuries and down to one healthy point guard. Also, while you may never want to send your best trade offer with your first proposal, be careful not to offer up too little. That can be offensive to the other manager and can lead to that person not only declining your offer but ending all future trade talks with you.

In-season strategies

Beyond trading, there are other factors to consider during the season like how to manage your games played in roto leagues, how to approach head-to-head playoffs, and how best to work the waiver wire. Check out the in-season strategies section of our draft kit.

Fantasy basketball etiquette

Every few years, no matter what type of league you’re in, you’ll run into someone who causes problems. Sometimes it name-calling on the message board and being a bully. Other times it is a constant stream of wild trade offers and questionable transactions. Whether you are in a hyper-competitive league or just trying to have some casual fun, you want to avoid being this way or having others in your league who conduct themselves like this.

Generally speaking, that just means following the golden rule: Treat others the way you’d want to be treated in your league.

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